Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Via Rail train plot brings counterterrorism, civil liberties to top of House’s agenda

News of a terror plot to attack a Via Rail train, just one week after the Boston Marathon bombings, has pushed public security to the front burner just as the Harper government seeks Parliament’s authority to curb civil liberties in the name of keeping Canadians safe.

The House of Commons was several hours into a debate Monday over a government-sponsored counterterrorism bill that would give authorities extra powers of arrest and detention when the RMCP announced they had foiled an al-Qaeda-backed plan to attack a Toronto-area passenger train.

Austerity Benefit Cuts 'Targeting Most Deprived Areas', Labour Report Finds

The government's welfare reforms will see as much as £850 taken away from individual residents in some of the most deprived areas of the country, Labour research has uncovered.

The party has accused the coalition of protecting affluent parts of the country whilst targeting areas already struggling to cope with the recession for the deepest cuts in benefits, tax credits and council services.

Boston Bombings Suspects' Mother Zubeidat Tsarnaeva: 'My Kids Have Been Set Up'

The mother of the Boston bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has claimed that the FBI called her years ago with concerns that her eldest may be radicalised, and insists her sons have been set up.

Her comments came as US security officials prepared to face questions in Congress over whether they should have taken further action after 2011 investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev at the request of the Russian government was dropped.

Margaret Thatcher Plotted Showdown With Miners From Day She Became Prime Minister

Margaret Thatcher began plotting to defeat the coal miners from the day she took office, according to her official biography.

The new prime minister put her deputy, Willie Whitelaw, in charge of the preparations for a showdown with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

However she was forced to postpone the confrontation until her second term of office after warnings that she was not in a strong enough position to win.

Jeremy Scahill: The Secret Story Behind Obama’s Assassination of Two Americans in Yemen

The Obama administration’s assassination of two U.S. citizens in 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old Denver-born son Abdulrahman, is a central part of Jeremy Scahill’s new book, "Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield." The book is based on years of reporting on U.S. secret operations in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan. While the Obama administration has defended the killing of Anwar, it has never publicly explained why Abdulrahman was targeted in a separate drone strike two weeks later. Scahill reveals CIA Director John Brennan, Obama’s former senior adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, suspected that the teenager had been killed "intentionally." "The idea that you can simply have one branch of government unilaterally and in secret declare that an American citizen should be executed or assassinated without having to present any evidence whatsoever, to me, is a — we should view that with great sobriety about the implications for our country," says Scahill, national security correspondent for The Nation magazine. Today the U.S. Senate is preparing to hold its first-ever hearing on the Obama administration’s drone and targeted killing program. However, the Obama administration is refusing to send a witness to answer questions about the program’s legality. "Dirty Wars" is also the name of a new award-winning documentary by Scahill and Rick Rowley, which will open in theaters in June.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Romanians Guilty Of Causing 'Crime Wave' In London, Says MP

Conservative MP Philip Hollobone has said one of the key reasons Romanians should be prevented from moving to the UK because of the number that commit crimes.

"There is currently a crime wave of bag snatchers and pickpockets on London underground," he said. "Eight out of 10 pickpockets on the London underground are Romanian."

The Kettering MP, who is a special constable, made the comments during a parliamentary debate on Romanian and Bulgarian immigration on Monday evening that had been triggered by people signing an e-petition on the subject.

Abu Qatada Case: Government Denied Fight At Supreme Court

The Government has been refused permission to take to the Supreme Court its fight to remove preacher Abu Qatada from the UK, the Judicial Office has said.

Permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was refused by the Court of Appeal.

The government's latest move came after judges last month rejected the latest in a long line of attempts to deport the terror suspect to Jordan.

A Home Office spokesman said they were "disappointed with the Court of Appeal's decision" but would be requesting permission to appeal directly from the Supreme Court.

Pat Robertson, Islamophobic Televangelist, Compares 'Evil' Islam To Nazism

Controversial televangelist Pat Robertson is known for many things, especially for building a lucrative Christian media organization and leading a cohort of conservative evangelists. But Robertson's infamy has also been growing recently due to his consistent denigration of the Islamic faith. On Monday, he demonstrated once again his dislike for the religion during his daily television program, "The 700 Club."

Bemoaning the fact that he's been called a "fanatic" and a "bigot" for expressing what he deems to be "truth," Robertson told viewers that Islam is to blame for not only the Boston Marathon bombing, but terrorism around the world. He even wondered to Erick Stakelbeck, "The 700 Club's" resident "terrorism analyst," why the United States is downplaying the role radical Islam might have played in last week's attack.

Walmart CEO's Pay Jumps 14.1 Percent To $20.7 Million

(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Monday that members of its board's audit committee were paid more for the latest year due to extra work they had to take on to handle an ongoing investigation into alleged foreign bribery.

The world's largest retailer also said in its annual proxy, filed with U.S. regulators late on Monday, that three board members would not stand for re-election at the company's June 7 annual meeting, and that Chief Executive Mike Duke and some other executives were paid more as sales and profit grew.

How the FBI in Boston May Have Pursued the Wrong "Terrorist"

Could the Boston attacks have been stopped? In the aftermath that question has gained urgency with the news that the FBI was on Tamerlan Tsarnaev's trail more than two years ago. But it is further underscored by another FBI operation conducted in the Boston area during that same period—one focused on a different subject of dubious importance.

In January 2011, when the FBI looked into the alleged Boston Marathon bomber and dismissed him as a potential threat, agents in the Boston field office pursued another person they suspected could be a terrorist. While they apparently decided to stop tracking Tsarnaev—whose six-month trip to Russia at that time is now of prime interest to investigators—the FBI conducted a sting operation against an unrelated young Muslim man who had a fantastical plan for attacking the US Capitol with a remote-controlled airplane.

Premier Redford’s rocky road

EDMONTON - The government of Premier Alison Redford officially turns one year old today.

Born on election night April 23, the little tyke is a Taurus which, according to irrefutable Internet sources, means it is “dependable, persistent and generous” and shares its zodiac sign with the Queen, William Shakespeare and Lester B. Pearson.

Redford government on wrong path: poll

EDMONTON - Nearly two-thirds of Albertans think the Redford government has steered the province off course in the past year, according to a poll by Leger Marketing.

More than 50 per cent of Albertans surveyed in early April said they felt dissatisfied with the Progressive Conservative government’s performance on the economy, education and health care, as well as its overall trustworthiness and accountability.

Corporations fill Liberal coffers

The top donors to the B.C. Liberal Party in the past decade are a well-heeled corporate coterie.

The top 20, which gave nearly $10 million to the Liberals from 2005 to 2012, include a who’s who of the mining, forestry, retail investment and building sectors, according to a detailed database constructed by The Vancouver Sun from Elections BC information. There’s also representation from resource sector suppliers, the oil and gas sector and the auto sales sector.

EPA once again criticizes State Department's review of Keystone XL pipeline

WASHINGTON - The powerful U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has once again rebuked the State Department over its positive environmental assessment of TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

In a lengthy, highly technical letter sent Monday to the top State Department officials overseeing the pipeline permit process, the EPA raises serious concerns about the project's carbon footprint and criticizes the department's draft analysis.

Federal government leaves door open to joining U.S.-led missile defence system

OTTAWA — The Conservative government on Monday refused to rule out joining a U.S.-led anti-missile defence shield, which opposition parties described as a boondoggle waiting to happen.

CTV reported Sunday that the U.S. has asked Canada to join the program amid heightened concerns over North Korea, which has been threatening to launch missile strikes against North America’s western seaboard.

Does the world exist (in Canada’s foreign policy)?

Rarely do questions of metaphysics, epistemology and foreign policy intersect. The past seven years of foreign policy under Prime Minister Harper and his various foreign ministers, however, suggest that the government has trouble grappling with objective reality when it comes to the world outside Canada’s borders.

In their response to the Boston bombings over the past week, the Conservatives have shown themselves resistant to the notion that policy-making should be linked to a realm of facts existing independently of swagger and spin. Justin Trudeau was rash to diagnose “root causes” of social alienation behind the bombings just hours after they occurred. Yet that rashness wasn’t what the prime minister seized on the next day: “When you see this type of violent act, you do not sit around trying to rationalize it or make excuses for it or figure out its root causes….You condemn it categorically, and … you deal with [the perpetrators] as harshly as possible.” Cynically, he chose to cast Trudeau’s comments as a justification for violence (which they patently were not). But more significantly, the prime minister rejected the very notion that seeking to understand motivating ideas and conditions might be a useful response to violence. What the government itself does by way of condemnation and punishment, he effectively declared, is all that matters to Canadians’ safety.

Citizenship application process blamed for growing wait list

A rise in citizenship applications and a process some say has become too complicated have created a growing backlog of permanent residents awaiting word on whether they can become Canadian citizens.

Close to 350,000 permanent residents are on the waiting list to become citizens, according to the latest Citizenship and Immigration Canada numbers from September 2012. By comparison, the waiting list was 189,886 in 2007.

The Russians Are Pounding The 5th Generation F-35 Into Oblivion With Its 4th Generation Su-35

Of the jets in production that promise to take military fighters deep into the 21st century and beyond, the U.S. F-35, the Chinese J-20, and the Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA are at the top of the heap. Unfortunately, there are problems with all three 5th generation planes and the F-35 in particular is having global buyers back away much faster than it would like.

Russia is solidly looking to fill this gap with a known and dependable jet, the Su-35, to which it added cutting edge avionics and amenities for the 21st century.

US denies it asked feds for help with missile shield

OTTAWA - The U.S. government says it hasn't asked for Canada's help to beef up its ballistic missile defence shield.

"There have been no offers, proposals or recent discussions with the Canadians about a ballistic missile defence shield," defence secretary spokesman Bill Speaks said Monday.

Democratic governments and looking out for others

Recently the Harper government decided to close the Kitsilano Coast Guard station which provided search and rescue services in waters bordering Vancouver. The numerous watercraft (representing 20 million human transits annually) crossing English Bay and False Creek now have to depend on a station over one-half hour from the centre of water traffic.

Though only one small instance of massive government cutbacks, it nevertheless affects the sense of well-being in the lower mainland of British Columbia.

Crowley's red hot labour market

Brian Lee Crowley's latest column shows he's a glass-half-full kinda guy. We shouldn't be worried about unemployment because a) it's old-fashioned, b) Boomers had it worse (and now they're getting old) c) we're doing better than the U.S., and d) it's really only young people and immigrants that are unemployed.

This is a relief.

So I shouldn't worry that Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey indicates that real average hourly wages have risen by only 20 cents between 2009 and 2012 (an annualized growth rate of 0.3 per cent). Or, that at the same time, real median hourly wages have actually fallen, indicating that any wage growth is limited to a few at the top end.

The trouble with evidence: Cuts to the Health Council of Canada

The Council of Canadians is saddened by the news of the cuts to the Health Council of Canada. While some analysts are correct to point out that the HCC had little bite, the bark that they had was valued.

West Fertilizer Plant's Hazards Eluded Regulators For Nearly 30 Years

WEST, Texas -- Long before it captured national headlines as the scene of a lethal industrial explosion, the fertilizer plant on the edge of this central Texas town had been a community fixture, a crucial supply depot for farmers and ranchers who worked the surrounding pastures.

No one seemed to regard it as a threat.

"It's been there so long that you just take it for granted," said Jeanette Karlik, a columnist for the local newspaper, the West News.

The 11 Most Mystifying Things the Tsarnaev Brothers Did

On Monday, it became official: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged with "use of a weapon of mass destruction" and "malicious destruction of property resulting in death" for his alleged role in last Monday's bombing of the Boston marathon. The federal criminal complaint comes three days after police captured Tsarnaev in a boat in Watertown, Massachusetts, and four days after a manhunt for these specific suspects began in earnest. For the time being, law enforcement officials believe Dzhokhar and his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed Friday, acted alone.

The Commons: A day to debate terrorism

At noon, the House moved to government orders. To present S-7, the Combatting Terrorism Act, stood Candice Bergen, parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety.

“In closing,” she concluded shortly thereafter, “I would like to express my deepest condolences to all of those who have suffered as a result of the despicable acts that occurred in Boston this last week. The way that the city has come together has been an inspiration for all of us. They have shown the world that fear would not define them and I would hope that Canadians, if such a thing would happen, would do the same thing.”

Shuswap Candidate Charged Under Fisheries Act in 2010

The British Columbia Liberal Party candidate in Shuswap, Greg Kyllo, had an ownership stake in a project that in 2010 garnered a $375,000 penalty under the Fisheries Act for harming sensitive fish habitat.

"If someone has had a company that was convicted of destroying fish habitat, how is that person deemed to have the qualifications to become an MLA?" asked Jim Cooperman, the president of the Shuswap Environmental Action Society. "Someone should be looking at this."

"A company I had ownership in took responsibility for the issue, and it was widely reported at the time," Kyllo said in an email to The Tyee, which had tried to reach him by phone and email.

Foreign Giants Line up to Develop Chunks of BC's Coast

Premier Christy Clark often uses decisive, forceful and possessive language to describe her Liberal government's vision of exporting enormous volumes of liquefied natural gas to Asia.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but we need to seize it," she reportedly said during a recent campaign stop in Chilliwack. "We have to make sure we can capture this moment."

Clark's verb choices may overstate B.C.'s role. It's not the province, after all, that will "seize," "capture" or otherwise possess a large and lucrative share of the global market for liquefied gas -- at least not directly.

Feds now calling it Canadian 'Armed' Forces, critics say move illustrates government’s preoccupation with military

PARLIAMENT HILL—The federal government has begun officially referring to the Canadian Forces as the Canadian Armed Forces in departmental statements and speeches, a name change that one of Canada’s leading peace groups says will turn the Defence Department into a “political actor” in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s efforts to expand his party’s conservative base.

The new term has been included in speeches and releases from Defence Minister Peter MacKay (Central Nova, N.S.) since last December and extends also into news releases from other government departments when referring to the Canadian Forces, the description of Canada’s Army, Navy and Air Force contained in the National Defence Act since a Liberal government under then prime minister Lester Pearson unified the three separate services into one in 1968.

Experts puzzled over suggestion train plot linked to al-Qaida in Iran

The RCMP suggests there’s a link between al-Qaida in Iran and a plot to blow up a Via Rail train, but the relationship between Iran and the terrorist network remains murky at best.

Iran has given senior members of al-Qaida safe haven since they fled from U.S.-led forces during the invasion of Afghanistan more than a decade ago. But the Iranians and al-Qaida do not like or trust each other, in large part because al-Qaida is made up of Sunni Muslims while Iran is predominantly Shia.

Bloomberg Says Interpretation of Constitution Will ‘Have to Change’ After Boston Bombing

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday the country’s interpretation of the Constitution will “have to change” to allow for greater security to stave off future attacks.

“The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry,” Mr. Bloomberg said during a press conference in Midtown. “But we live in a complex word where you’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.”

Government’s sudden need to debate terror bill smacks of opportunism

The two-day debate in Parliament on the Harper government’s proposed anti-terrorism legislation smacks of political opportunism, and it is regrettable that it will take place. The debate politicizes the Boston Marathon bombings when few facts are known regarding the bombers’ motives or inspiration. As well, Canadian legislators have no direct interest in the tragedy. The sole apparent purpose of the debate is to attempt to embarrass Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, and to cash in on any public fears caused by the bombings.

Austerity Fanatics Refuse To Admit They've Just Been Completely Discredited

Let's not all go ding-donging just yet, people. The austerity witch is not quite dead.

Supporters of austerity have certainly been knocked back recently, but that has done nothing to shake their belief that government spending is an evil that must be stopped, no matter how many children starve in the process.

Poll Suggests Energy Independence Trumps Environmental Concerns

U.S. and Canadian policymakers in favor of TransCanada Corp. TRP.T +1.42%’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline got a bit more ammunition for their cause Monday.

A new poll of American and Canadian residents suggests a majority in both countries–74% of Americans, 68% of Canadians–either support or “somewhat” support the controversial pipeline, which has been the target of intense opposition by environmentalist groups and key Democratic lawmakers.

Oilsands pollution levels not a concern, say federal, Alberta governments

OTTAWA — Contaminants from the oilsands industry are polluting air and water in the region, but the current levels are “not a cause for concern,” the federal and Alberta governments said Monday as they launched a website for a new monitoring program.

The statement was part of a summary of the early results of the joint monitoring plan, which was introduced in response to criticism from scientists that an earlier, industry-led monitoring program was inadequate.

Alberta Industrial Emissions: Province Accounts For 48 Per Cent Of Canada's Total Greenhouse Gases

Canada's greenhouse gas emissions continue to level off or decline in most sectors - with the exception of the Alberta oilsands.

An annual inventory report submitted by the Harper government to the United Nations last week had federal politicians patting themselves on the back, as they declared themselves the first Canadian government to lower greenhouse gases.

Anonymous and Libertarians Protest CISPA; Tech Giants Don't Give a Damn

About 400 websites are taking part in an online blackout today to protest the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). The web-based demonstration, organized by the hacktivist organization, Anonymous, is not likely to interfere with the average web user's day, unless that user frequently posts funny videos on Reddit. CISPA, a controversial bill that aims to boost cybersecurity by removing legal barriers that prevent tech companies and the government from sharing sensitive information about web users, sailed through the House last week, despite strong opposition from privacy groups and President Barack Obama, who is threatening to veto the current version of the bill. Early last year,  the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), two online copyright enforcement bills, spurred widespread blackouts involving more than 7,000 websites and tech giants, including Wikipedia and Google, yet the biggest websites willing to take a public stand against CISPA merely include various subsections of Reddit and a Facebook page for the Libertarian party.

Save the New York Public Library!

"There is no more important landmark building in New York than the New York Public Library.... Yet it is about to undertake its own destruction." So wrote architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable in her final essay before she died (at the age of 91) on January 7. That essay, which appeared in The Wall Street Journal, was one of two luminous pieces of criticism published in the winter concerning the NYPL's Central Library Plan. Huxtable decried the library's lack of transparency: three phone calls she made to the institution this past August were not returned until a powerful city official intervened on her behalf. As for the CLP, Huxtable arrived at a stark conclusion: "After extensive study of the library's conception and construction I have become convinced that irreversible changes of this magnitude should not be made in this landmark building.... You don't 'update' a masterpiece."

The US, Russia and Chechnya After Boston

When President Obama meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in September, they’ll have a lot to talk about. Some things on the agenda will have prime importance: the crisis in Syria, talks with Iran, disarmament and nuclear weapons among them. Far less important are issues on the fringe, including the deplorable state of human rights in Russia and now, after the Boston bombings, terrorism.

Terrorism, all agree, is bad. But marrying the already-overblown US “war on terrorism”—complete with drones, war in Afghanistan and questionable treatment of suspects at home—to Moscow’s heavy-handed, bloody assault on mostly Muslim rebels in the Caucasus just isn’t a good idea. There’s no doubt that Putin and the security services in Russia would love the United States to become an active ally in cracking down on radical and militant Muslim groups from Central Asia to the Caucasus to, well, Syria, where the United States is supporting the very same radical Muslim insurgents that it opposes elsewhere, including in Iraq.

But that’s a terrible idea.

Reinhart And Rogoff Make More Mistakes While Admitting To Research Flaws

Sometimes mistakes are like potato chips, or sex partners: It's hard to stop at just one.

Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard have spent the past week defending themselves for mistakes they made in their influential research on government debt and economic growth. In the process, they have apparently made more mistakes.

St George's Day Declaration By Christian-Muslim Groups: 'Hijab Should Be As Welcome As Bangers And Mash'

The hijab should be as welcome as "bangers and mash" in England, a coalition of religious groups and campaigners have said, in an appeal for unity to mark St George's Day.

Groups including the Muslim Council of Britain and inter-faith organisation the Christian Muslim Forum said the saint has been "hijacked"by groups on the "extreme right", like the British National Party and the English Defence League, seeking to use him as a "symbol of triumphalism and division".

'Major Terrorism Attack' Thwarted By Canadian, American Authorities: Report

TORONTO, April 22 (Reuters) - Canadian police and intelligence agencies will announce multiple arrests on Monday after an operation to thwart a "major terrorist attack," the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported, citing unidentified "highly placed" sources.

The operation was coordinated with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, CBC said.

Canada's national police agency was expected to hold a news conference later on Monday to give details of the alleged plot.